I am a certified medical assistant. Here's my advice for what it's worth.
If you want to work in a hospital setting, do not become a medical assistant. There are a few hospitals that hire them in my area (Michigan), but even those who hire them hire very, very few. As a medical assistant you will most likely find employment in an outpatient setting (doctor's office, urgent care).
If working in a doctor's office, urgent care, etc., appeals to you, then I would advise you to go for it with a few caveats. I would recommend NOT going to a trade/vocational school. Most community colleges have excellent MA programs. Typically these programs are properly credentialed so that you can sit for your certification through the AAMA afterward. The cost is less than a trade/vocational school, and at least in my area, the education is superior.
As far as finding work, I graduated from my community college's MA program and had a job paying $11.00 per hour lined up within 2 weeks of my last class session, BEFORE I even had a chance to sit for my certification exam (which I did do). No, $11.00 isn't some kind of golden wage, and I had earned much more than that as an administrative assistant in the past. But I realized that this was my first MA job, and it was not reasonable for me to expect to come in at the top (or even middle) of the salary range.
Since then I have received job offers at insulting wages ($8 or $9 per hour, although if it's your first job and you have no prior work experience as an MA, then accepting such a job as a starting point so that you can obtain that much desired one year of experience might be a smart move). The highest offer I have received was $16.00 per hour, but I declined the offer because after interviewing with them I determined it was not a place that I would be happy working. It's not just about the money, it's about being fulfilled by your work, and more importantly, how you feel about your work will show in your attitude no matter how hard you try, and giving your patients your very best every day is priority.
Typically I have found that $13.00 per hour to start is what I ended up making as a medical assistant. No benefits. (The $8-$9 per hour jobs did have benefits so I suppose it sort of evened out if I had determined the monetary value of the benefits and if I had even needed the benefits.).
This I can tell you from working in medical offices as an MA. When we've had openings for an MA position, each time we have had over 100 applicants for each open position. I can give a few tips for those interested in how the candidates were weeded out:
1) Applicants who lived outside of a 10 - 15 mile radius of the office had their resumes thrown out. With so many applicants the doctors had the luxury of selecting someone who lived close to the office. Their reasoning was that these applicants were more likely to be able to get into work in bad weather and were less apt to be late to work due to running into unforeseen road construction, etc. They also were close enough that the doctors felt confident that the applicant would not continue looking for a job closer to their home if they hired them.
2) Resumes with misspelled words or poor grammar were tossed out immediately. Have someone proofread your resume if in doubt.
3) Ageism exists, but what I observed was reverse ageism. The offices I worked in would never have said it to an applicant, but they discriminated against candidates they felt were of childbearing age. My advice is to leave off the dates you graduated from high school. Only include the date you graduated from MA school. They can't tell how old or young you are that way and grant you an interview based strictly on your credentials and experience. Then you'll wow them at the interview and age won't be an issue!
4) When you land the interview, show up wearing a modest business suit (skirt), hair done nicely, modest makeup, no nail polish with nails trimmed, post earrings. Wear nylons and modest heeled pumps. Yes, I know the bare legged look is "in", and I know that sky-high heels with platforms are in too, but not for a conservative business meeting. Look like the professional you are.
We had so many extremely qualified candidates hustled in and out of the interview process because of their attire. I can't tell you how many applicants showed up with wet hair, dressed business casual (which was usually the best we could hope for), with their hair up in sloppy buns, with long painted nails and gobs of makeup/heavy perfume, or in scrubs. Yes, I know you will likely end up coming to work there in scrubs if you get the job, but you are not there to work. You are there for a business meeting between professionals. Dress like it and you will rise to the top of their list! First impressions do matter!
5) Be sure to mention your accomplishments, your positive attributes. Lean forward slightly in your chair. Mirror your interviewer's body language. Speak clearly and distinctly. Look them in the eye. And SMILE! A smile and a handshake while looking your interviewer in the eye is great. Practice your handshake if necessary(no dead fish please!). And finally, remember your manners. Thank them for their time at the end of the interview, reiterate how impressed you are with their practice and how excited you are at the prospect of working for them, and tell them how pleased you were to meet them.
6) Follow up your interview with a thank you letter. If you interviewed with several people, write each an individual letter and send them in a separate envelope. This shows them several things about you. It shows that you follow through! A very desirable trait. Secondly it shows them that they were not "just another interview", but that you REALLY want to work in their practice! Third, it shows that you appreciate them, their time and have common courtesy (something that is not so common these days).
For you it serves to remind them of you after the interview has passed and before they make their final decision. You have another opportunity to shine in their eyes and to elevate yourself above the other candidates.
I know this was long, but I hate seeing MAs being discouraged. The right education and then presenting yourself in the best possible light will help you land a decent MA job so you can begin your career.